A touch of a spurred heel made his horse first start and rear, and then bound away; the dog rushed in his traces; all three vanished-

"Like heath that, in the wilderness,
The wild wind whirls away."
(Jane Eyre)

If there's not that, the example makes sense to me. Why is that put?

  • 4
    That here is the relative pronoun: "heath which the wind whirls away*. Mar 12, 2013 at 10:51
  • The word that is syntactically highly desirable, in that it helps us to easily see the intended sense which would be clearer (if less poetically expressed) as like heath whirled away by the wild wind in the wilderness. But it's a couple of lines quoted from a poem based on a biblical reference, which I think is Too Localised for ELL. Mar 12, 2013 at 16:08

1 Answer 1


As StoneyB points out, that is acting as a relative pronoun here, giving a sense like “heath that the wind whirls away” or “heath which the wind whirls away”.

As FumbleFingers points out, the two lines are from a poem: Fallen is Thy Throne by Thomas Moore (born 1779, 36 years before Charlotte Brontë).

I don't know the original publication date of Fallen is Thy Throne, except that apparently its first wide availability was in Moore's Sacred Songs [1] in May or June, 1816. Thus the “wild wind whirls away” quotation may be an anachronism: I've supposed the time frame of Jane Eyre to be ca. 1809 or 1810, based on reference in Chapter XXXII to Scott's Marmion (late 1808) as “a new publication”:

“... I have brought you a book for evening solace,” and he laid on the table a new publication—a poem ...
While I was eagerly glancing at the bright pages of “Marmion” (for “Marmion” it was), St. John stooped to examine my drawing. ...

[1] A Series of Sacred Songs, Duetts and Trios, The Words by Thomas Moore, Esqr. The Music, Composed and Selected by Sir John Stevenson, part 1 (London: J. Power / Dublin: William Power, 1816; Philadelphia: Published by Geo. E. Blake, 1817?); part 2 (London: J. Power, 1824).

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